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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  PBS  January 20, 2013 10:00am-10:30am PST

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♪ coming up, as president obama second inauguration approaches, religious voices on the mood of the country and the outlook for the next four years. and bob faw reports on the shameful history of lynching in
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america, and african americans who found ways to forgive. major funding for "religion and ethics news weekly" provided by the indianapolis based family foundation dedicated to religion, community development and education. additional funding also provided by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. the jane henson foundation. and the corporation for public broadcasting. welcome, i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. final preparations are underway in washington, d.c., for the second inauguration of barack obama, taking place on monday, martin luther king, jr. day. the benediction will now be
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given by the reverend luis leon of st. john's episcopal church, where the obamas sometimes attend services. leon replaces evangelical pastor louie giglio, who bowed out after controversy erupted over a sermon he gave in the 1990s condemning homosexuality. myrlie evers-williams, widow of murdered civil rights leader medgar evers, wildeliver te iocation anthe brooklyn tabernacle choir will sing. this week, many religious groups praised president obama's newly announced measures to try to reduce gun violence, particularly his call for mandatory background checks and a ban on assault weapons. vice-president biden said the nation has a "moral obligation" to prevent future tragedies like the school shooting in connecticut. at a press conference in washington, members of an interfaith coalition reiterated support for strongerun
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control, saying they agree that it is a "moral imperative." >> we stand together because we know beyond all else that god is love. let us love one another, bind ourselves together and challenge the onslaught of violence in our nation. also this week, christian groups ramped up their push for immigration reform. at a media event in washington, speakers sat at a table with empty chairs meant to represent deported family members of immigrants livinhere. meanwhile, evangelical leaders launched a campaign they are calling "i was a stranger." in a video released this week, they urged churches to spend 40 days studying biblical passages that relate to immigration, in order to build grassroots support for immigration reform. this weekend of inauguration celebrations, we want to explore the mood of the country and perspectives on the next four
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years with three distinguished people of faith. they are the right reverend mariann edgar budde, bishop of the episcopal diocese of washington, d.c., john garvey, a lawyer and the president of the catholic university of america, and harold dean trulear, a professor of theology at the howard university divinity school. he joins us from philadelphia, where he is active in ministry to prisoners. welcome to you all. >> thank you. professor trulear, four years ago, for many people, there was an extraordinary mood of excitement and hope. what happened? >> well, i think what we were witnessing four years ago was sort of like a revival service. there was a real sense of expectancy, a real sense of hope. and like all revival services, at the end of the service, you've got to go out and get the work done. and some of the energy begins to
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dissipate, some of the hope begins to dissipate as you come up against the harsh realities in society. and i think it's just natural that the second time around, you don't have the same tup type of expectancy. i see the first time as a revival service, and now it's communion and renewal, healing. that's the kind of service moody see this time. >> bishop? >>le wiell, my sense is that th president really saw himself and we saw him as the one who would bring us together as a country. there would you be able n't be there wouldn't be blue america, there would be one country together. and what we learned in the first administration, we were not yet ready to be that country. that we are far more isolated and polarized as aountry than we knew ourselves to be. and what we wanted ourselves to be at that time. so my sense is that the task now isn't so much to speak to the middle, but to, in fact, help create a middle, where it's so
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much easier for us to stay in our isolated areas it's so much easier for us to stay in our isolated areas with people who think like us and the president's task and the tasks of communities of faith is in fact to create that common ground, where we can find the compromises that we need to ma to go forward. >> let's come back to that. president? >> there's a temptation in talking about these things to look to the president and the government as the leaders in all of these matters and that's maybe a mistake in matters of religion. you know, we live in a country where the president is not the head of the national church. it's people like the bishop who are religious leaders. i think it might be for many of the issues we're dealing with in the country more forceful and outspoken religious leadership from religious leaders would be helpful. i think about immigration as a ood example and n control as another. othe other hand, there are some matters, just to finish the thought, where the conflicts that we've had are between the government and private actors,
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the fight we're having over health control, healthcare. >> when you talk to students at catholic university, and wherever, do they seem to you kind of disillusioned? >> maybe with the possibilities of political solutions for our problems, but young people are much more hopeful than the rest of us so i think there's always a much more optimistic spirit on college campuses than there is out in the world. >> well, i would even say, i take it further and i have two young adult sons so i watch through, i often watch the work of the country through their eyes and through the young people that i serve and my sense is in this election, the most recent election, that the future of our country kind of showed up and voted in a way that no one was really expecting that they would given what you surmised which was a sense of perhaps disillusionment or in the professor's words, the revival being over. but in fact, i think they came back more seasoned, more realistic, more determined to do the hard work to bring about the
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kind of political consensus that we need and particularly in the state of maryland, if you look at the two issues that were passed on referendum the religious communities, the immigrant communities, people of color, they all came together in ways that totally surprised the expectations given what was perceived to be such a mood of pessimism, even just months before. >> what about you, professor trulear? do you sense any little glimmer of hope anywhere that things can be better? >> oh, i think there's a lot of hope. i think that it's just more grounded in reality, which is, i think, the gist of the bishop's comments that there is a sense that there were things that were accomplished during the first administration. i think she's absolutely right, we have surfaced some of our unreadiness but then that gives us a more clear agenda for the next four years. i think that also we've got glimmers of hope in some of the
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things that, some of the ways in which people came together around hurricaneandy wee se thain the new york, new jersey, connecticut area. ways in which this country is now ready for a conversation on violence and gun control based on what happened in newtown, connecticut, and of course when the president made his remarks about newtown he not only included newtown, but he also included the streets of chicago and so there is, there are these different packets of hope, even in the midst of difficulty that a number of our students at howard university and other people that i work with are latching on to at this time. >> i would also say that one of the things that we are learning is what we would need to do as a country in the face of natural societal resistance to change and that there is, there are hard lessons to be learned about how to lead in times of polarization which are different than in times when we, when the
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country is more naturally coming together and so those require different leadership skills, different spiritual skills, different levels of truth telling. >> wanted to pick up on somhing that you said, professor trulear. when we were talking earlier you spoke about not just gun control, but violence control. talk about that a little bit. >> well, gun control is a piece of violence control. we're a very violent nation. i often talk with my students about the fact that thanksgiving is the big holiday in the united states because we get to eat as much as we can, which is our consumerism, then we get to watch football which is a celebratn of violence. that's wh we are a the violence that we see on our streets, the violence that we see in the mass killings is a reflection of a lack of civility all the way around in our country. one of the things that i know a
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number of faith leaders are doing and we saw it in "the washington post" this past thursday is calling on a more civil tone of political discourse because there's violence in words and the ways in which candidates attacked each other during the campaign and the ways in which the partisan divide is beg reflected in vehement speech and violent speech towards one another. so it seems to me that there's an opportunity for people of faith to deal with violence at a variety of levels, from mass killings to street violence to the way we talk to each other and our leaders need to model that. that's one thing that i think our president has been very good at. >> john? >> you know one of the hopeful signs that i saw coming out of the last election was an increased attention to problem of immigration reform on both sides i think the role that the hispanic and latino community played in the election outcomes themselves brought the
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republican party, or the parts of the republican party that have been hard to move on immigration reform, back into the, into the center on this issue. that's an area where i think we're going to see, we're going to see real results both marco rubio on one side and president obama on the other side. >> it's also instructive i think in terms of how the political landscape is influenced by what's hpening on the vel where people live. the reason the politics shifted is because the country is shifting and when the country shifts in such a dramatic way there's really no choice but for the political realities to shift in response to those. >> this is what i was trying to get at, whether we can look to churches and to denominations and different religions for some kind of coming together that will be a model as well as an encouragement for people, for elected officials. >> there's a model, but there's also a, yes coming together but also having, learning w to
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have conversations on very difficult topics. yes, without insulting and demeaning each other, but also trying to present one's perspective from our personhood, who we are as children of god so we can't so easily demonize one another or dismiss one another as unworthy of our consideration. >> but this is what i mean by tending to see everything through a political lens. so, you're talking about our job ought to be that we model behaviors so our politicians behave better, but in fact thi is a religis issue in much more important sense. the christian churches and the jewish congregations, the muslim congregations believe that taking care of the poor, the orphans, the aliens is a religious obligation because we're all children of god and so in the first instance we want to do it because it's good for the people who are here and need care among us and the politicians ought to be listening to that. >> well, our time is up i'm sorry to say. thank you very much right
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reverend marianne edgar budde, presint john garvey and professoraroldean truler. many thanks to each of you for an interesting conversation. we have a special report now on one of the greatest tragedies of american history. the lynching of many thousands of african-americans. before the generation of people who remember such atrocities dies off, scholars are trying to record eyewitness accounts and what they're findingsotust graphic photos and consuming hate, but the ability of some of those most affected to forgive.
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for two sisters who witnessed a lynching, memories still haunt. 94-year-old kathryn fletcher will never forget how her one-time classmate was murdered at st. oseph, missouri eig decas ago. >> they chained him to the back of a car and dragged him up and down the main street of the black neighborhood screaming, "this will happen to you so-and-sos" then they tranged him to a tree and set afire and burned his body. >> throughout the country from the civil war era well into the 20th century, african-american men, women and even some whites were lynched. their bodies often shot, mutilated and burned. kathryn fletcher's 92-year-old sister, korea strauder, remembers what a mob in mer eval, missouri did to a black man accused of killing a white woman. >> they decided to put him,
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chain him on the roof of the school, and then set the school on fire. >> there was no evidence that this man was involved with her at all. but they had to pick up somebody. >> kathryn fletcher is one of over 70 elderly african-americans interviewed by the reverend angela sims for her "remembering lynching" project housed at the institute of oral history. >> if we don't capture the narratives now, they will be lost to history forever. >> angela sims, who teaches ethics and black church studies in kansas city, missouri spent two years interviewing african-americans who grew up in what theologian james cohen callsed chate the shadow of the lynching tree. they lived in fear of one. or in the case of 92-year-old willie matthew thomas, narrowly escaped being lynched. >> so one of them said, look, we
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going to hang him or not? and they said, sure we're going to hang him. so he made up the noose, and they put it round my neck. and i -- i remembered in the bible it speak about how they treated jesus, and they said, "they led him away to be crucified." they led me away to be crucified, to be hung. >> thomas was saved when a white man, who knew his family, showed up with a shotgun and intervened. dr. sims got the idea for her project when she heard a speech about lynching by retired minister the reverend wallace hartsfield, sr. now 83, he was only eight or nine living in georgia when he
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peered from behind a curtain and saw a mob. >> they had taken the man out, and they had used his body for gun practice, and then they had hanged him, and then cut him down and dragged him through the street and this was supposed to be a warning to, you know -- >> photographs were made of lynchings, then turned into postcards. >> when we think about lynching, particularly lynching as mob spectacle, it was very much a spectator sport. and so children were even dismissed from school in order to participate in the spectacle that was hanging, burning, maiming, dismembering. >> i had to take the bus home, and i had to ride a bus through
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the mob and to see the joy on their faces, as if they were cong to picnic. >> these postcards are just a graphic depiction of the way in which a culture of terror is almost endemic to what it means to be a citizen of this republic. lynching was always more than the death act. it was really designed as a way to control human behavior. >> sims found that those who witnessed lynchings were left initially with fear and bitterness, then lifong scars. >> it just haunts you, it just stays with you. you don't, you don't, you don't, you don't forget it. >> it made me hate with a kind of hate i had never experienced. and i hated all white people.
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it was a hate that was really beginning to make me ill after awhile. >> raised a baptist, fletcher's faith was shaken by what she had seen. >> if e lord that i hear about is the lord of mercy and love, why would something like this happen? >> what is remarkable, what nearly all those who encountered lynchings told sims, is that despite the evil and the terror, they were not only able to carry on, the were also able to forgive. >> i had to. i realized that it was a burden on me, it was such a burden carrying around this weight of hate. i guess my answer was jesus was hated and treated so badly but he could, could, could forgive. if he could forgive, i should be able to forgive also. >> those things hurt, but i cannot allow the past to smother
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me, to make me so angry that i can't get over it. because if you get angry, mad and evil, you look to do evil. but i have been freed from that nd of thing. my faith continues. i refuse to hate them. i refuse to hate them. >> what that white man did to me, come and rescued me and took a chance on his life, that gives me a sense of forgiveness. i forgive those people. you have to do that. >> sims calls their faith "the theology of liberation." you at one point said, "i'm listening for what salvation and redemption might look like." >> i marvel at people's ability
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to not only live through what they experienced but not to become consumed by hatred. for some it was arriving at a point where they recognized that even in the midst of evil, god was still with them. >> their lives, their testimony, an affirmation that lives once scarred can transcend evil. >> i think my faith must dictate to me what i say, what i do, how i act, how i live my life. and my faith teaches me that i am to forgive. >> even as the lynching tree continues to cast its shadow, this is a tale of remembrance and redemption which shows that it is possible to move into the light. for "religion and ethics newsweekly," this is bob faw in
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kansas city. ♪ in other news, amid a particularly bad flu season, some congregations are making changes to their worship services to try to prevent spreading the illness. in some catholic dioceses, priests have been allowed to stop offering wine from the communal chalice. congregants were asked to bow during the sign of peace, inste of shaking hands. andn waington, d.c., the who are sick were encouraged to stay home and try to find a mass on television. on our calendar, this weekend, some eastern orthodox christians, including members of coptic and russian orthodox churches, celebrate epiphany, the day they mark the baptism of jesus. and, finally, the world's largest religious festival got underway in india this week.
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kim lawton has more. >> reporter: for the next two months, as money as 100 million hindu pill grams are expected to convert for the big picture festival. it happens only once every 12 years. pilgrims believe their sins will be washed away where the third rivers a third mystical river. the festival has been taken place for more than 2,000 years, and officials say this may be the biggest celebration yet. the event commemorates a hindu story that describes the god's fight with demons to gain possession of a golden pitcher containi the neck tar of immortality. during battle, some drops fell to the earth. smaller festivals are held more often at the spots where tradition says those drops fell. but this big picker pitcher festival is considered the holiest. they come out of seclusion and the event has become a meeting
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point for yoga practitioners around the world. authorities have constructed makeshift tents and medical facilities in the small town where the pilgrims are gathering but security is a huge challenge. another problem, dealing with severe pollution in the river. the government has banned pilgrims from using plastic bags and asked them not to use soap. industries have been put under new pollution restrictions. despite the problems and massive crowds, many pilgrims who make the trek say this will be the spiritual journey of their lifetime. i'm kim lawton reporting. 100 million pilgrims. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernathy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook a wach us any time onhe pbs app for iphones and ipads. there's always much more on our website, as well. including more of my conversation with professor harold dean trulean and john
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garvey. you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. join us at as we leave you, music from the brooklyn tabernacle choir which will perform at the presidential inauguration on monday. ♪ ♪ major funding for "religion and ethics news weekly" is provided by the lily endment and indianapolibased prate famy fountion, dedicated to its founder's interest in religion, community development and education. additional funding also provided
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by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. the jane henson foundation. and the corporation for public broadcasting. >> welcome to you all.
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